Bagpipe Rock

Life goes in neat circles.  Here’s a post I wrote on October 5, 2003:

Now I’m in Seattle.  Enjoyed San Francisco, although my sightseeing was accomplished from behind the wheel of a rental car while on my way to various readings, signings and assorted appearances (some involving free food — something country music roadies taught me never to ignore).  The architecture out here is interesting – those flat roofs just wouldn’t cut it in Wisconsin.  One heavy snow and you’d have a lapful of rafters.  A lot of the outlying developments remind me of the old Native America cliff dwellings, had those cliff dwellings been done up in pastel.  The baseball playoffs were in full swing, and it was neat to drive past Pac Bell in the dark with the game on the radio, look at the bright white banks of lights, and know that the action on the radio was unfolding in real time beneath them.  Felt the same way when I was returning from Berkeley, crossing the Bay Bridge in the dark and listening to the A’s.   Turned my head, and sure enough, there were the stadium lights, their own bright little constellation amid all the lights of the Oakland docks.

It’s tough to describe book tour.  It’s intense, not in a heavy-lifting sort of way, but in a sort of nonstop way.  You’re always driving or talking or trying to find a radio station or a television station or a hotel or a departure gate.  Your life boils down to showing up and talking.  Showing up and talking.  Over and over.  But every stop, people listen and smile, and then say gracious things.  I’ve spoken with several other authors during the course of the year, and they all confirmed what I feel: Writing is a mostly solitary existence and we prefer it that way, but when we see someone in a chair at a reading, it reminds us that a reader is someone who gives us their time, and this leaves us frightened and deeply grateful.  So to everyone in the chairs, thank you so much.

I did have one little moment that amused me, if no one else.  I was hammering down Highway 101 on my way to read in San Mateo, I was overtired, undernourished, running late and a little unclear on my direction of travel, when I hit “seek” on the radio and wound up with Bon Scott screeching “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll).”  Goofily perfect.  Lovely to think of the pursuit of the literate life in terms set by AC/DC.  When the delirious metal bagpipe solo cut loose, I kicked that Hertz Mazda up another ten miles an hour.

Nearly six years later, I’m on book tour again.  San Francisco and Seattle in my rearview mirror, this morning it’s Iowa City.  At the Prairie Lights event last night I met a man (and his son Steven) who cited my reference to the AC/DC bagpipe solo and handed me a CD.  I’m listening to it now, with my first coffee of the day.  And the music is a delightful gift, because we’re talking “We Will Rock You,” “Eye of the Tiger,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Hey Jude,” “Getting Jiggy With It,” and so on — all featuring bagpipe solos.  Yessir.  It’s the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.  My favorite so far? “Rockin’ All Over the World.”  It’s a Status Quo cover.  I wrote about the Quo in Coop and how my dear departed friend Tim and I loved their simple rock.  When I heard the familiar tune delivered via rollicking bagpipes (yep, bagpipes can rollick) I was both tickled and wistful.  I miss Tim.

A radio show in a few minutes.  Then westward on I-80.  With bagpipes cranked.

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